Researchers at the University of California have finally uncovered the secret behind why red wine can cause headaches within minutes, according to a recent study. While hangovers are common after drinking sessions, red wine headaches can strike even after just one small glass, and they can occur within 30 minutes to three hours of consumption.
The culprit behind these sudden headaches is a naturally occurring compound called quercetin, an antioxidant found in fruit and vegetables that gives them their color. Quercetin has been known to interfere with a person’s ability to break down alcohol when combined with red wine, leading to migraines, flushes, nausea, and headaches.
Dr Apramita Devi and Professor Andrew Waterhouse from the university’s viticulture and enology department conducted the study and found that when quercetin gets into your bloodstream, it is converted into quercetin glucuronide. This compound blocks the metabolism of alcohol, causing acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism, to accumulate in the body. High levels of acetaldehyde can cause facial flushing, headache, and nausea.
Professor Morris Levin noted that not all red wines have the same effect on people’s heads. He said that sunlight exposure during grape growth affects how much quercetin is present in the wine. Wines from sunnier regions tend to have higher concentrations of quercetin and are more likely to trigger near-immediate headaches. Ageing process also plays a role in determining whether or not a particular red wine will cause a headache as well as individual pre-existing health conditions such as migraines or other types of headaches may make someone more susceptible to experiencing these symptoms after consuming red wine.
Overall this research provides new insights into why some people experience red wine headaches and opens up avenues for further investigation into ways to prevent or mitigate these symptoms in future studies.